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Foodies flock to You Real, on point Japanese Restaurant.

DINING out frequently, I get to observe cash-rich and deeply cool clientele, the average food lover, and last resort individuals who lack the ZESA or gas to prepare a meal at home. On a recent visit to You Real, an on point Japanese restaurant in Sam Levy’s Village, we were surrounded by fellow foodies, intent on savouring as many exotic dishes as time, appetite and financial resources would permit.

Recently opened, You Real exudes an authentic Japanese atmosphere. Attention to detail in the wooden furniture, hanging lanterns, a dense bamboo room divider and channels of decorative white stones, encourage you to think that the chefs in the kitchen will perform with similar precision and skills. At the back of the restaurant was a traditional Chinese moon door, representing the full moon and associated with a happy life. Did it lead to a yet unexplored private dining area, or perhaps to the loos?

Sushi Deluxe Moriawase at You Real Restaurant

I had booked a table for two, and we found ourselves seated near the bamboo screen, facing out of the window towards the veranda linking a number of cafes and shops, and the busy car park. Young wait staff, all shiny, happy people smartly dressed in black uniforms, greeted us and took orders for drinks. Shermad, our waiter, gave us ample time to study the menu, and was able to describe the various fillings for different types of sushi, and to describe the more unusual dishes on offer.

Assorted sushi deluxe moriawase (ZW$325), made from the chef’s choice of the freshest seafood of the day, took a while to come, but was worth the wait. Crunchy tempura shrimp, salmon, sashimi prawns, crab, avocado, seaweed and sticky rice were magically transformed into seventeen individual pieces of sushi and artistically presented as the cargo of a model wooden fishing boat. Pungent wasabi paste (great for allergies and arthritis) and pickled ginger, essential companions to sushi, were served on the side.

Chicken teriyaki, fragrant with soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar (ZW$135), was served on a wooden platter, alongside a crunchy swirl of finely shredded green cabbage. Juicy and tender, this sweet and savoury dish would appeal to young diners as well as to adults. I would have loved to try grilled eels with sauce, or beef Ramen noodles with soup, or a spicy tofu dish, but the servings had been generous and we could eat no more.

Although the food at You Real is prepared according to halal procedures, all alcoholic drinks are available and the bartender can prepare a full range of classic cocktails including mind blowing mojitos and daiquiris. If you’re on the wagon for any reason, I can recommend the rock shandy – perfectly balanced and delicious.

Fatima, the owner/manager of You Real, is a soft-spoken young woman with a passion for good food. She grew up in Ningxia Hui in the northwest of China, a province bordering with inner Mongolia, once a stop on the Silk Road, frequented by Muslim merchants. Growing up in a family of master bakers and confectioners, she learned how to make quality bread and cakes. From her much-loved grandmother she was taught the intricacies of Chinese cuisine.

After majoring in business studies in Beijing, Fatima longed to travel abroad, specifically to Africa. When offered an opportunity to work on a project in Kwe Kwe, Fatima’s dreams began to come true. After a few years spent in the Midlands city of Kwe Kwe, Fatima was ready to move to Harare and to open a restaurant specialising in Japanese cuisine – her favourite style of cooking.

A careful planner, Fatima visited Tokyo on a tasting tour, familiarising herself with Japanese cooking methods. She then interviewed Japanese-trained Chinese chefs with a taste for adventure, who would be willing to exchange the hustle and bustle of living and working in Beijing for Harare’s laid back lifestyle.

Fatima’s proficiency in project management and the ability to make fallback plans ensures that You Real Restaurant will always have a supply of the fresh produce advertised on the menu, whether it be salmon from Norway, clams from Canada or okra and sweet potato from a local market. Contingency plans to obtain diesel to run generators must be constantly made and re-made by restaurateurs countrywide.

Well-trained staff are able to answer customers’ queries about all the dishes on the menu, as Fatima ensures that waiters have tasted and are familiar with everything from beef teppanyaki, to seaweed and tofu soup and to black pepper chicken with rice.

Foodies who enjoy community dining experiences can look forward to the end of the year, when Fatima hopes to introduce the Chinese hotpot, where seated diners dip thinly sliced meat, seafood, tofu and noodles into a central pot of boiling hot stock. Fatima also hopes to bring in portable Korean barbecues, adding yet another dimension to exotic dining in the suburbs, and more options for your Christmas and year-end parties.   A Matter of Taste Charlotte Malakoff

You Real Japanese Restaurant
Shops 13-14 Sam Levy’s Village
Mobile: 0719 425 555
Open daily, 10 am – 10 pm
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